CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- About 800 Charleston employees will see bigger paychecks after City Council members unanimously passed the first across-the-board raises since 2009.
"It's about time," Mayor Danny Jones said. "We want to make sure our city employees feel appreciated."
The 3 percent raises will cost about $768,000, Finance Director Joe Estep said. They take effect Oct. 7, City Manager David Molgaard said.
Although some employees have received merit-based raises, council has not approved an across-the-board pay raise since July 1, 2009, Estep said.
Uniformed personnel like firefighters and police officers also receive a pay raise when they are promoted, he said.
The funds for the raise came from the budget rollover from last fiscal year.
City Councilman Andy Richardson, at-large Democrat, pointed out the city still had enough money left over from last year's budget to provide raises despite the fact that Charleston is still dealing with millions of dollars in unfunded liabilities in police and firefighter pension plans.
"It shows how efficient the city is being run," Richardson said.
Molgaard is also pleased the city is able to provide raises to around 800 city employees, including all uniformed personnel.
"Our employees are our best asset," Molgaard said.
The economic picture for the city is also improving, he said. Business and occupation tax revenue is up by 9 percent over this time last year, Molgaard said.
The rollover funds came as a result of good "stewardship" of public money, Jones said. The raise will help keep city employees from leaving their jobs to find other work, he said.
The city also moved about $400,000 in budget rollover into a fund to pay down the millions of dollars in unfunded liabilities in the police and fire pensions.
An actuarial report will show how much of the $400,000 will go to both plans, Molgaard said.
The city over budgeted payments on retiree benefits during the previous fiscal year and opted to use the leftover cash to help pay off the liability, he said. This occurred because not all of the uniformed personnel eligible to retire did so, Molgaard added.
The city will also place about $100,000 in budget rollover into the Municipal Stabilization Fund, bringing the fund up to about $4.5 million, Estep said.
A total of $1.78 million in federal funds and $444,600 in matching city money that was to be used to turn the approximately 104-year-old train trestle over the Kanawha River will now go to pay for the two-lane bike path along Kanawha Boulevard from Magic Island to Patrick Street.
The plan calls for two bike lanes between the existing bicycle/pedestrian trail and Kanawha Boulevard. All four lanes of Kanawha Boulevard would be left intact, but the grass median between the east and westbound lanes would be eliminated.
Although the money will now be used for the bike path instead of the trestle project, the rehabilitation of the century-old trestle is not dead in the water, Molgaard said.
"But we just don't have the $20 million to do it," he said.
The price tag for rehabbing the trestle for a bike/ pedestrian bridge is estimated to cost about $20 million.
"I think this is a good idea," said Councilman Tom Lane, at-large Republican and staunch supporter of the trestle project. "I consider the trestle project to still be alive, but it's very expensive."
City Engineer Chris Knox could not provide a timeframe for completion of the bike path project. However, he said it could possibly be completed by next summer.